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Pictorialists Then and Now

Writer / Nancy Breslin

Nancy Breslin goes to the Phillips Collection to see “TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, 1845–1945”.

Kasebier BlessedTwo weeks ago I saw a lovely show at the Phillips Collection in
Washington, DC. TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as
Art, 1845–1945 is a large show that begins with the work of some
pre-pictorialists (e.g. Julia Margaret Cameron), moves through
the work of the pictorialists themselves (Coburn, Kasebier,
White) and ends, after Stieglitz embraces modernism, with images
by those such as Outerbridge who were trained by or influenced by
the Secessionist artists yet worked in the sharper, tighter,
modernist mode. It is a great show for those with an
appreciation for what we now call “alternative process,” since
processes such as platinum and gum were major tools at the time.
Of particular interest may be several examples of the same
negative printed using different processes. A smaller, partnered
exhibit is Coburn and the Photographic Portfolio. Both shows run
through January 9th, and more information on the museum is at

An interesting tie-in to the exhibit is a competition that the
Phillips is running, called InstaVintage, in conjunction with ReadysetDC. The “challenge” is to use your phone to take a picture in DC and then to transform it, using a phone photo app, into a pictorialist image. The deadline is 9 am on November 4. See http://readysetdc.com/instavintage/ for details.

I suspect that Kasebier would be charmed by the idea, but that Stieglitz would roll over in his grave.

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